5 great clipless pedals you should be riding in 2017

Clipped pedals win medals.

Do clipped pedals win medals? Whilst flat pedal rider Sam Hill is the exception that proves that rule, statistically speaking, yes, they do.

Look at every World Champs since the year dot and you’ll see a rider in clips wearing the rainbow stripes. Look at the majority of the World Cups and you’ll see the same.

Sam Hill upset the apple cart in 2010 on flats at World Champs. Gee won the World Cup in Cairns on flats in borrowed shoes in 2014. But they’re two outliers in a field that is otherwise dominated by clipped pedal performance.

Clipping in means going fast. More power, more control, more stability through the corners and rough ground, the ability to both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ the pedals to create power. If you’re interested in flat out performance – yep, clipped pedals win medals.

How did we choose these pedals?

We chose the pedals in this feature based on what we want to ride and to race on technical, tough, steep, gnarly terrain. We opted for big, grippy pedals with a large platform – pedals that aren’t so fussy about weight and put grip and stability at a premium.

We also chose a pretty modern spread of new, up to date pedals rather than the timeless classics. There’s definitely more pedals in the world than we’ve tested here – but we wanted to look at some newer faces.

Who’s our test pilot?

Rich Thomas has been out testing this lot. Rich raced on Team Wideopenmag from 2012 to 2016 and has mixed up this year as our chief product tester. With 185 races under his belt, 9 years in elite and top 25’s at downhill World Cup he’s perfectly suited to tear products to pieces and report back on how they stack up. Look out for loads of tests from him this year.

5 clipped pedals for downhill and enduro:

DMR Bikes VTwin

DMRBikes VTwin

Weight: 546g a pair
Pins: 7 pins per side
RRP: £129.99
Web: http://www.dmrbikes.com

DMR Bikes first clipless pedal came as a bit of a surprise – after all, their legendary reputation came from flat pedals and dirt jump bikes, right?

The VTwin is built around the Shimano SPD system and is designed with a floating mechanism – something we were really impressed with. The VTwin is designed to be super adjustable, with 7 removable pins per side and also plastic bumpers and metal shims which allow you to mix up the feel and grip of the pedal. Interestingly, there are plans to release the spec for the plastic bumpers to allow riders to 3D print their own in custom shapes and colours – for complete customisation. Durability is taken care of via fully sealed and fully serviceable bearings.

The VTwin is second heaviest pedal in the test and also the second priciest.

Test pilot Rich says:

I like the Floating clip mechanism design and options for pin length and customisation. All of the customisation made them easy to set up and easy to get that ‘just right’ feeling. The cleats are also customisable so there’s loads of opportunity to get the fit exactly right for your style.

Whilst a lot of the pedals in here are lean heavily towards downhill or enduro – the VTwin feels like a real all rounder that I’d happily ride on any of my bikes. The clip in mechanism feels really good due to the floating design – there’s a clear feeling when you’re clipped in.

On the trail the VTwin feels good – the platform is a good size and felt like it offered plenty of support on rough terrain. On longer rides on the trail bike they also felt great.

The Vtwins saw the worst of the British winter and the bearings did start to strain a little which I’ll need to keep an eye on. They’re fully serviceable which will come in handy.

The VTwin is a great jack of all trades that offers loads of customisation and great value for money. As DMR’s first clip pedal, they’ve done a great job.

Buy DMR VTwin pedals online.

CrankBros MalletE

CrankBros Mallet E

Weight: 419g per pair
Pins: 6 pins per side
RRP: £131.25
Web: https://www.crankbrothers.com

The Crank Brothers MalletE is (as the E suggests) designed for Enduro. The classic Mallet is a staple of downhill racing and has gradually evolved to become more reliable and better performing pedal. The ‘E’ version provides 6 pins per side, 4 sided entry, a roomy axle width and runs its own cleats.

Test pilot Rich says:

The MalletE impressed me from the off. Unlike many others in the group, there’s a comfortable concave to the platform which offers a very stable, confidence inspiring feel and no extra pressure on the foot.

The clip-in ‘feel’ of CrankBros is a bit marmite and takes a bit of getting used to. Whilst the HT X2 pedal has a clear, mechanical feel of being clipped in or clipped out, the CrankBrothers is quite different. The feel is much softer and takes a few rides to learn at what point your foot is locked in and trust the pedals. Once you get it though, they become second nature.

You can also clip-in in 4 directions meaning it’s easy to get back in and start hammering the pedals in a hurry. The engagement feels great and is consistently positive and clean with a clear feeling of being firmly clipped in. A slight downside with CrankBros is that lack of adjustability – where most pedals let you tweak the stiffness of the mechanism, CrankBros take a bit of a ‘like it or lump it’ approach.

Cleats are Crank Brothers specific and made of brass meaning that they’re designed to wear down. You’ll need to switch these out every 6 months or so to keep performance high. That can take a bit of organisation so buy some spares when you get your pedals.

What really impressed me with the MalletE is the length of the pedal axle – with a clear half cm on top of some others in the bunch. This means lots of room to move around on the pedals and no rubbing shoes or ankles on your cranks or chain stays. That’s a big upgrade compared to previous CrankBrothers pedals.

Whilst the CrankBrothers MalletE is the most expensive pedal on test it is my favourite of the bunch. It’s an evolution of a classic design and the longer axle and decent concave means they’re comfortable and offer loads of grip. The mechanism takes a bit of getting used to but once you’ve got your head round it works great. Don’t forget the 5 year warranty and free pedal servicing for racers at the British Downhill Series.

Buy Crank Brothers Mallet E Pedals online.

Nukeproof Horizon CL

Nukeproof Horizon CL

Weight: 526g a pair
Pins: 6 pins per side
RRP: £99.99
Web:  http://nukeproof.com

Like many of the pedals in this test, the Nukeproof Horizon CL is built around Shimano’s SPD system. It’s Nukeproof’s first clipless pedal and one that was designed in collaboration with Sam Hill, based around the platform of the much-loved Horizon Pro flat pedal.

Grip comes from 6 removable pins, each of which can be run with or without the supplied washers to adjust height.

Test pilot Rich says:

I like the Nukeproof Horizon CL. It has a really modern look and a good quality, well built feel to it. There’s a lighter weight, smaller platformed Nukeproof Horizon pedal but I’d happily ride the CL version for downhill, enduro and trail riding. The cleats are Nukeproof’s own and come in a 4 degree and 8 degree float option with tension adjusted on the pedal. They seem to be really hard wearing from all the riding I’ve done on them so far.

The size of the Horizon’s platform is good and offers plenty of support. Clipping in feels very solid and there’s a positive ‘click’ when the cleat engages. The design allows you to clip in from any angle, include straight downwards, which makes punting your feet back in on messy terrain easy.

On the flip side I would like to see more of a concave to the pedal for a bit of extra stability. Without it, the mechanism puts a bit of extra pressure through the ball of your foot which is noticeable on longer rides or rougher trails.

The Horizon is a great newcomer. It could do with a bit more concave to the platform but it’s tough and reliable, has a great engagement and the ability to customise pin heights is a nice touch.

Buy Nukeproof Horizon CL pedals online.

HT Components X2

Weight: 460g a pair
Pins: 5 pins per side
RRP: £119.99
Web: http://www.ht-components.com

The HT Components X2 pedal is neither the most expensive nor the cheapest on test – though it is one of the lightest, beaten only by the Crankbros MalletE.  It features 5 pins per side, a subtly concaved platform and HT’s own EVO+ bearing system.

Test pilot Rich says:

I like the simplicity of the HT X2 pedal. There’s very little to go wrong or mess up and they just work fine from the get go.

They definitely have a very unique feel – with a clear sensation that you’re either clipped in or clipped out. That can be good as you always know where your feet are at but can also feel a little mechanical at times compared to some of the other pedals with a smoother mechanism. Like the Funn and Nukeproof pedals, the mechanism is fixed rather than floating.

The HT X2 has a comfortable, subtle concave to the platform which is an improvement on some of the others in the group. It holds your foot nicely in place without discomfort and – teamed up with 5 pins per side offers plenty of grip and support.

Durability is worth a mention. The cleats seem very hard wearing and have survived plenty of abuse. The EVO+ bearing system seems to be very resistant to crap weather and places a bushing on the drive side of the pedal and a needle bearing on the outside to increase lifespan. I had no trouble at all with these despite loads of muddy, wet riding.

If you like a clear ‘in or out’ feeling to your pedals these could well be a great investment.

Buy HT Components X2 pedals online.

Funn Mamba Two Side

Funn Mamba two side

Weight: 590g a pair
Pins: 4 pins per side
RRP: £119.99
Web: http://www.funnmtb.com

The Funn Mamba is available in one and two sided versions – that means you can either have clip-in mechanisms on both sides or have a pedal with a clip-in side and a flat side. They’re capable of running SPD cleats and feature a really useful Grease Renew System which makes maintenance a breeze.

The Funn Mamba is the heaviest pedal on test but is also one of the cheapest, costing the same as the HT.

Test pilot Rich says:

The Mamba is a good one for DH – it has an large platform that offers a big, solid perch when your foot is unclipped. I really like the ‘GRS’ (grease replacement system) which lets you re-grease the pedals through a small port, rather than stripping your pedals. That’s a great detail in pedal design and I’d love to see other manufacturer’s take note.

The mechanism on the Mamba is fixed, rather than floating which looses some of the performance and comfort I found on other pedals. Engagement into the pedal is solid and reassuring but after a couple of weeks of use is starting to slacken off and is showing sign of wear. The cleats are a carbon copy of the tried and tested Shimano design and work well, no problems there.

Similarly to the Nukeproof pedal, I’d like to see a bit more concave to the platform – the large, flat surface doesn’t provide the most grip of the bunch and on longer rides or rougher terrain causes the mechanism to put a bit of pressure on your foot.

The size of the Funn Mamba is great, they’re a really good looking pedal and the GRS grease port is a work of genius, especially in the UK winter. They aren’t the cheapest on test (by £20) but they are the heaviest. Adding those niggles to the lack of concave on the platform means they don’t quite hit the mark in the same way others on test do. They’re not bad at all, but they’re not excellent.

Buy Funn Mamba Two Side pedals online.

And our favourite …

… The CrankBrothers MalletE pedal

Whilst all of the pedals in this group had their own strengths, for test pilot Rich it was the CrankBrothers MalletE pedal that was his pick of the bunch.

Despite having the highest price tag (at £131 a pair) the performance justified the cost. The Mallet has a comfortable platform with a subtle concave and 5 grippy pins to keep shoes held in place. They have a unique feel to their mechanism which can take a bit of getting used to compared to a Shimano system … but once you’ve got your head round it you’ll be riding trouble free.

The axle length was the big selling point for Rich. Whilst it might seem like a minor detail, the roomy axle leaves room for plenty of twisting and movement on the bike and no rubbing of shoes or ankles on cranks and swing arms.

An honourable mention goes to the DMR Bikes VTwin which is a great newcomer with loads of customisation that allows you to get your pedals just right. The Funn Mamba pedal also deserves a shout for the innovative and very useful grease port – ideal if you ride in the mud a lot.

 


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